Mini-Reviews: Masterminds, Deepwater Horizon, Storks, & The Girl on the Train

Hey everybody!

Welcome to the third edition of Mini-Reviews. This time, it’s more of a mixed than it was last time. So let’s get to it, shall we?

 

*As always, these will be spoiler free reviews*

 

Masterminds

Director: Jared Hess

Writers: Chris Bowman, Hubbel Palmer, and Emily Spivey

Cast: Zach Galifianakis, Kristen Wiig, Owen Wilson, Jason Sudeikis, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, Mary Elizabeth Ellis, Ken Marino, and Jon Daly

Synopsis: A guard at an armored car company in the Southern U.S. organizes on of the biggest bank heists in American history. Based on the October 1997 Loomis Fargo robbery.

 

Yes, Masterminds is based on a true story. Of course, I’m sure the film takes some liberties, but for the most part the film tells the story of David Ghantt (Galifianakis), an armored car guard at Loomis Fargo who wants to do more in his life. He gets the chance when his co-worker Kelly (Wiig), under orders of the town small-town criminal Steve (Wilson), convinces him to rob Loomis Fargo. David, of course does it thinking he has a chance with Kelly, even though he’s engaged to Jandice (McKinnon). The good news is that David gets it done and is convinced to go down to Mexico to hide out, the bad news is that the FBI is on to him and Steve wants to cut loose ends.

Masterminds was set to come out two years ago, until it got pushed back to this year, and even then its release was in question thanks to Relativity Media’s bankruptcy. It also didn’t help that the film had a pretty descent cast, so it’s a shame that after all this, the film didn’t turn out as good as it could have been. I will say it does seem hard to make a comedy based on a true story, since you can’t really force funny moments in true stories, but if you have the right cast I assume you could. Masterminds is sadly not one of those.

I will say I’m not a huge fan of Zach Galifianakis, but he does okay here as a somewhat lovable and gullible David, who gets fooled into robbing $17 million. Kristen Wiig is reliable as always, and is arguably the heart of the film. Owen Wilson has his small moments, but doesn’t stand out as much as Jason Sudeikis’ hitman character Mike McKinney. His part of the film is rather odd, and at times will probably make you cringe-laugh, but he goes all in for this. Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones are put on the backburner for the most part. Jones plays a detective for the FBI hunting down David, while McKinnon plays David’s soon-to-be wife Jandice as an odd and cliché trailer park women, who has only one big moment.

All in all, Masterminds is a wasted opportunity to let all these great comedic actors to cut loose. There are some genuine funny moments in the film, but overall Masterminds fails to really connect, and make you laugh the way I think they thought it would.

Masterminds

2.5 out of 5

masterminds_ver8

 

 

Deepwater Horizon

Director: Peter Berg

Writers: Matthew Michael Carnahan and Matthew Sand

Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Kurt Russell, Kate Hudson, Douglas M. Griffin, James DuMont, Joe Chrest, Gina Rodriguez, J.D Evermore, Ethan Suplee, Dylan O’Brien and John Malkovich

Synopsis: A dramatization of the April 2010 disaster when the offshore drilling rig, Deepwater Horizon, exploded and created the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

 

Peter Berg has become a “based on a true story” film master. Friday Night Lights, Lone Survivor, the upcoming Patriots Day – based on the Boston Marathon bombing – and this. Berg has a way to really make the people in those films more important than the event itself sometimes, and Deepwater Horizon is another prime example of that. Not only that, he makes the film feel like a horror film at times, which is what the people onboard the actual rig probably felt like they were in on that fateful day.

The film mostly follows the Deepwater Horizon rig’s chief electrical technician Mike Williams (Wahlberg) and installation manager Jimmy Harrell (Russell) or Captain Jimmy as the crew calls him, on the day they arrive on the Deepwater Horizon along with a few BP company men and control room operator Andrea Fleytas (Rodriguez). However, when they arrive they find out that BP management, lead by Donald Vidrine (Malkovich) on the rig, want the crew to start drilling right away because they are behind schedule. Of course, Mike and Jimmy aren’t having any of it because the safety of the crew is at risk, Mike lets them know that the rig isn’t running at one-hundred percent, but Vidrine pushes them and they start drilling. What follows is the Deepwater Horizon suffering massive failure and an explosion that sets the rig up in flames. The crew then tries to survive and escape the rig at all costs.

Berg does a great job of setting everything up. He even goes into the technical side of things even though he probably knows not all the audience is going to know what the hell they’re talking about – we can get the gist considering we know what happens and they make it sound pretty bad. We also get a descent sense of these characters, so when the rig goes up in flames we care for these characters. And while most films would tip-toe around the situation, Berg tackles it head-on and does lay some – arguably all – of the blame on BP for forcing the rig workers to keep going.

The other great thing Berg does is make us, essentially, part of the crew. When the Deepwater Horizon goes up in flames, you can feel the horror that these men went through. This isn’t your typical escapist disaster film, this was a man-made disaster that isn’t filled with your typical Hollywood hero. Wahlberg or Russell don’t make big speech to comfort everyone, they get hurt and are equally affected by the rig explosion like everyone else. 11 men lost their lives that night, and the way Berg makes the event look, it’s almost hard to believe that not more people died.

The cast holds their own. Wahlberg gives one of his finest performances to date, and one that pays off at the end. I know Wahlberg may make people think of the film a certain way, but when he’s given the right material with a great director like Berg, he always turns in a great performance. Russell is as reliable as ever, Gina Rodriguez and Dylan O’Brien have their moments, but are scattered throughout the film and only really pick up during the events of the explosion. Finally, Malkovich seems to be enjoying himself playing a sleazy BP official, and while maybe that’s not how the real life Vidrine was, it does give us the general idea of greed and not caring about the consequences.

All in all, Deepwater Horizon is a very effective thriller that sometimes feels like a horror movie. Peter Berg knows exactly what to show and what kind of story he wants to tell, and instead of focusing on the oil spill – which got the most attention in the news – this highlights the people actually onboard the rig. I’ll even admit that by the end of this film, I was in tears. Something not a lot of films can make me do, and make me admit.

Deepwater Horizon

4.5 out of 5

deepwater_horizon

 

 

Storks

Director: Nicholas Stoller and Doug Sweetland

Writer: Nicholas Stoller

Voice Cast: Andy Samberg, Katie Crown, Kelsey Grammer, Anton Starkman, Ty Burrell, Jennifer Aniston, Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Stephen Kramer Glickman and Danny Trejo

Synopsis: Storks have moved on from delivering babies to packages. But when an order for a baby appears, the best delivery stork must scramble to fix the error by delivering the baby.

 

I didn’t really expect anything from Storks when I first read about it. However, that all changed when I watched the film, because I really liked Storks. The film follows Junior (Samberg), who works at Cornerstore.com which is where storks now deliver packages instead of babies because delivering babies became too much of a problem. Junior is not in line for a promotion from his boss Hunter (Grammer), but before he can take the position he has to do one thing: fire the only human worker at Cornerstone, Tulip (Crown). Junior doesn’t really do so and instead puts her in a building by herself.

However, that only complicates matters as Tulip gets a letter from Nate Gardner (Starkman) who wants a sibling, and accidentally makes one. Junior already thinking he’d be in trouble with Hunter decides to deliver the baby on his own with Tulip tagging along. Of course, a grand adventure ensues.

I had a lot of fun with this movie more than I thought I would. The film never loses steam and the jokes are top notch, so much so that I was still smiling or laughing way after they were delivered. The stories are also very touching. On one end you have the human story of Nate, an only child, who wants a sibling to play with because his parents (voiced by Burrell and Aniston) are always busy with their real estate business. On the other end you have the two stories of Junior wanting to be more than a delivery man, and Tulip trying to find her own place in the world, and wanting to really help. The two stories perfectly blend together near the end that makes the finale all the more touching and heartwarming.

The rest of the voice cast is filled with Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele playing Alpha and Beta Wolf, who are one of the many highlights of the film, and Danny Trejo as Jasper, a stork that comes into play in the second half of the film. Finally, another highlight of the film is Stephen Kramer Glickman as Pigeon Toady, who will leave you laughing for sure.

All in all, Storks is a ton of fun that takes a while to bring its core theme out, but the ride is so much fun that it doesn’t matter. Storks will leave you laughing out loud and leave you wanting a bit more.

Storks

4.5 out of 5

storks_ver11

 

 

The Girl on the Train

Director: Tate Taylor

Writer: Erin Cressida Wilson

Cast: Emily Blunt, Haley Bennett, Rebecca Ferguson, Justin Theroux, Luke Evans, Edgar Ramirez, Laura Prepon, Allison Janney and Lisa Kudrow

Synopsis: A divorcee becomes entangled in a missing persons investigation that promises to send shockwaves throughout her life.

 

Based on the popular and one of the fast-selling novels of all time by Paula Hawkins, The Girl on the Train is being labeled as the possible next Gone Girl. A comparison that doesn’t really help any film since Gone Girl was vastly different animal that some people haven’t seen before. While the film does show shades of that, The Girl on the Train is a completely different animal altogether that is a less effective thriller and drama than Gone Girl.

The Girl on the Train follows alcoholic and divorced Rachel (Blunt) who rides the train every morning. During her rides, she always stops and spots the house of a couple who she doesn’t know but pretends to give them names and jobs. However, one day the woman, Megan (Bennett), ends up going missing and the day she did she noticed Megan with another man. What follows is Rachel trying to figure out what happened to a woman she’s made an unnatural connection to, but her obsession also becomes a problem for her ex-husband Tom (Theroux) and his new wife Anna (Ferguson), who she has been harassing them.

Going more into detail will probably lead me into spoiler territory which is something that I obviously don’t want to do. The film does jump back in time – a few months – so we get enough scenes with Haley Bennett’s Megan before she goes missing. The film also spends some time with Rebecca Ferguson’s Anna, who shines more near the end of the film than in the beginning. All that said though, this movie belongs to Emily Blunt. I’m okay with saying Blunt is one of the best actresses working today, and this film proves it. The rest of the cast, while they have their moments, kind of fall to the wayside. Edgar Ramirez and Laura Prepon are underutilized, especially Prepon, and Allison Janney, while her character was meant to only be small, would have been nice to see more of her.

The characters are probably going to make some people not like the film. There are times when you probably want to go into the screen and smack one of them around, which is what makes the film a little more relatable – to the characters anyway. It also helps that these characters are in the thriller genre, so their actions will make us question where they fall in line to the case. Although, there are times when the film gets bogged down in its own drama.

All in all, The Girl on the Train is held together by Emily Blunt’s great performance, along with Haley Bennett. The film gets bogged down a bit by its own drama, and while some things from the book don’t carry over, they make up for it by telling their own story. The Girl on the Train isn’t the next Gone Girl, but its effective while watching.

The Girl on the Train

3.5 out of 5

girl_on_the_train_ver2

Advertisements

‘Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising’ Review

neighbors_two_sorority_rising_ver4

Director: Nicholas Stoller

Writers: Andrew Jay Cohen, Brendan O’Brien, Nicholas Stoller, Seth Rogen, & Evan Goldberg

Cast: Seth Rogen, Zac Efron, Rose Byrne, Chloe Grace Moretz, Ike Barinholtz, Kiersey Clemons, Dave Franco, Beanie Feldstein, Carla Gallo, Selena Gomez and Lisa Kudrow

Synopsis: After a sorority moves in next door, which is even more debaucherous than the fraternity before it, Mac and Kelly have to ask for help from their former enemy, Teddy.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

Comedy sequels are always hard. Most of them don’t work or only semi-work because they try to replicate the charm or what made them special the first time around. Very rarely comedy sequels work, and thankfully Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising doesn’t full too much into those pitfalls too much and is actually a different film with some nice callbacks and different-ish story from the first film.

The film follows Mac (Rogen) and Kelly (Byrne) as they bought a new house for their growing family, and are now in escrow on their old home. They have thirty days to make sure nothing spooks the new buyers, but turns out that new college students Shelby (Moretz), Beth (Clemons) and Nora (Feldstein), start a new sorority because they want to make their own sorority to break away from the Greek system. The problem is that they move into the house next door where the fraternity once lived. Mac and Kelly, scared that they could lose the buyers and the new house, try to find a way to get the sorority to either not party for thirty days, or once again, make them go away. Problem with that is these three are very headstrong and are all about sisterhood and empowerment. Then there is Teddy (Efron) who comes back into the fray.

MV5BMTU1Mjg2NDU4N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTM5MDE1ODE@._V1__SX1209_SY535_

 

Like I said, comedy sequels tend not to work too well, and while Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising does follow some beat-for-beat moments from the first film, it thankfully tries and succeeds – for the most part – to be different and be a better movie. Comedy is subjective, but the sequel is still, maybe even more, raunchy than the first and has a probably more gross-out moment than the first one. Some jokes had made laughing out loud in the theater with everyone else, and while some jokes fall flat or just completely miss, there is a nice wave of jokes that are streamlined throughout the film.

The returning cast of Rogen, Byrne, and Efron are great and feels like they have better chemistry this time around than the first. Chloe Grace Moretz takes the Efron-role from the first one as Shelby, the leader of our new rebel group. Shelby wants to join a sorority but turns it down when she realizes that sororities aren’t allowed to throw parties in their houses, only frats can (which is apparently a real thing). Moretz is fine as the new leader along with her fellow friends and new sisters Beanie Feldstein and one of standouts in Dope, Kiersey Clemons.

neighbors0005

The film does have some social commentary and a theme that runs throughout the film that is centered around the new three female characters, and while the theme is acceptable and reasonable, it’s a bit too heavy handed for me by the end. They poke fun at it here and there, which leads to great jokes, but even though I like the message, I wasn’t all for it.

All in all, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising is a worthwhile sequel that has some great laughs and run-on jokes that keep you invested in the film and characters. While the themes and social commentary are a bit heavy-handed for me personally, it doesn’t take away the enjoyment of the film as a whole. The case is fantastic together and there is no slow part of the film. Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising isn’t the perfect comedy sequel, but it’s one of the better ones out there.

neighbors2

Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising

3.5 out of 5

‘Neighbors’ Review

neighbors_xlg

Dir: Nicholas Stoller

Cast: Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, Zac Efron, Dave Franco, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Jerrod Carmichael, Ike Barinholtz, and Lisa Kudrow

Synopsis: A couple with a newborn baby face unexpected difficulties after they are forced to live next to a fraternity house

 

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

 

Even though Neighbors is filled with some great jokes, the movie is about growing up without losing your identity.  Here, the movie does try to find the balance between the responsibilities of an adult without losing our young, joyful selves. Luckily, the movie manages to find the humor in this struggle.
Rogen plays Mac Radner, who lives in suburbia with his wife Kelly (Bryne) and new-born baby.  They’re good parents who love their baby, but they miss the days where they could party all night.  When the Delta Psi fraternity moves in next door, the couple is torn.  They don’t want to be the grouchy old people, but they also don’t want to be up all night.  Mac and Kelly go over to make a peace offering with the frat’s President, Teddy (Efron), and at first things seem like they’ll be okay.  They party with them and even looks like they are going to become friends. But, when the partying becomes too much to handle, Mac and Kelly try to get the frat kicked out, which results in an escalating prank war.
It’s was fun to watch Mac and Kelly playing the crotchety neighbors without ever coming off that way.  Instead, their actions make them feel, sort of, younger.  To their credit, they try to take responsible actions like calling the police and meeting with the dean of the school (Lisa Kudrow), but neither one helps.  This forces Mac and Kelly to get creative in how they’re going to get rid of Delta Psi. Even better, Mac and Kelly are not a bickering couple trying to find a way to reignite the spark in their marriage. The beginning of the movie should paint that picture pretty well. They just don’t want to become “those people” who would take the joy out of youth.

 

Rogen and Bryne are perfect at balancing between responsible parents and aging partiers.  The two have wonderful chemistry, and for Rogen, it’s almost strange to see him playing a “real” parent rather than the unprepared one.  His youthful spirit is still in play, and is why the character works.  As for Bryne, she stays on the same level as Rogen and maybe even excels. She has her own moments that shine and might be a highlight for some viewers.

 

On the other side you have the frat.  Rather than making them out to be monsters or juveniles, they’re just college kids. Even though the frat may be partying all night and making life miserable for a young family, they’re not the “villains.”  They’re oddly sympathetic as they depend on their brotherhood, especially Teddy and his vice president, Pete (Franco).

 

Efron, who some probably still see as the guy who did the High School Musical movies and some romantic movie, delivers a pretty solid performance. It’s not just that Efron has decent comic timing; there’s also a sympathetic side to Teddy that’s essential.  If he’s just the good-looking, clever, smarmy frat-boy, then we lose interest in half the movie, well at least I would.  Neither side is “mean” even though they’re effectively trying to ruin the other’s life. As the movie progress, and near the end, you do feel for the guy.
Other standouts include Dave Franco’s Pete, who takes an interesting stance toward his sorority brothers, more partially Teddy. It’s one that, I honestly did not see coming but it was a nice and it’s refreshing to see it done in the movie. However, Franco does share his comedic moments. Chritopher Mintz-Plasse and Jerrod Carmichael also bring some laughs as frat-boys, while new comer Craig Roberts shines as a pledge who is simply referred to as Ass-Juice (that should tell you everything).

 

Director Nicholas Stoller, who has worked under Judd Apatow, realizes that more laughs don’t necessarily mean a better movie.  He’s found the in-between for raunchy humor (and I do mean raunchy) that runs through the movie but is streamlined in a way that leads the comedy and the relationships to be more effective.

 

All in all, Neighbors has a lot of laughs, some better than others, but also has a real message behind the movie which is something you probably wouldn’t suspect. Is it for everyone? Probably not, but you’ll have a good time with it.

 

 

Neighbors

4 out of 5